Monday, January 18, 2010

Summer Bird Gets My Vote For 3YO Male

I love to study thoroughbred pedigrees and follow the juveniles on the Triple Crown trail. It’s my passion.

Every now and then when I’m studying pedigrees I have a “Wow” moment.

In 2009 my “Wow” moment came in March while studying the pedigree of Summer Bird as he prepared for the Arkansas Derby. I believed back then that Summer Bird he had the potential to become a Classic Champion Thoroughbred and I’m so glad that he finished his 3-year-old campaign as the recipient of the Eclipse Award for Three-Year-Old Male.

I’m also glad to hear that Summer Bird is recuperating from his injury and will return to racing as a 4-year-old.

You never know if a horse will live up to its breeding. Summer Bird did live up to his breeding and along the way he became a Classic Champion Thoroughbred winning the Belmont Stakes (G1), Travers Stakes (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Easygoer, in 1989, was the last thoroughbred to win those three races.

Summer Bird was my pick to win the Kentucky Derby and shortly before the Derby I interviewed Dr. Kalarikkal K. Jayaraman in hopes of having his story published. I was not able to get it published so I posted it a week before the Derby on Dan Illman’s Daily Racing Form FormBlog which is where I regularly posted before I started my blog.

Here’s my interview with Dr. Jayarman:

FormBlog April 24, 2009Weekend thoughts, Beat the chalk, etc.

The Kentucky Derby is what dreams are made of and if Summer Bird wins the Derby, the owner and breeder team of Doctors Kalarikkal K. Jayaraman and his wife, Valasini D., will be living their dream.

The Jayaraman’s are no strangers to the Kentucky Derby. In 1989 they pursued their dream when they sent forward Irish Actor who finished 7th to Sunday Silence in the Run for the Roses. This year, though, the Jayaraman’s believe they have a better chance at winning the Kentucky Derby with the Arkansas Derby third-place finisher Summer Bird.

“He’s a pretty nice colt. He looked like a horse that could run,” said Jayaraman who, along with his wife, have bred and raised thoroughbreds at their Tiffany Farms near Ocala, Fla. since 1982.

“He broke his maiden very impressively,” said Jayaraman, commenting on Summer Bird’s first-place finish in only his second start on March 19th in a 1 1/16 mile race at Oaklawn Park. It was that performance that motivated the Jayaraman’s to pay the $6,000 late nomination fee to nominate Summer Bird to the Triple Crown. Two weeks later, Summer Bird did not disappoint the Jayaraman’s when he rallied from dead last to finish a fast-closing third-place in the Arkansas Derby and brought home a $100,000 paycheck.

The Jayaraman’s spend a lot of time studying pedigrees and planning matings. Thoroughbreds that the Jayaraman’s have bred include G2 Stakes Winner Royal Spy and G3 Stakes Winner Comic Truth. Their biggest success to date is the G1 Stakes Winner Dearest Trickski. It’s that kind of research and planning that led to the breeding of Summer Bird (Birdstone-Hong Kong Squall by Summer Squall).

At first glance, with only three life-time starts and $100,000 in Graded Stakes earnings, Summer Bird would not appear to be a likely Kentucky Derby winner. His Dosage Profile – a numbering system created by Dr. Steven A. Romans to measure the number of Chef-de-Race stallions in the first four generations of a horse’s pedigree – is a modest 16. Summer Bird’s great grandsire, Unbridled, is the only Chef-de-Race to be found in the first three generations. Dear Birdie and Weekend Surprise are the only Reines-de-Course (Queens of the Turf) mares found in the first three generations.

So, there is not a lot of Blue Blood up close in the pedigree of Summer Bird. But, appearances can be deceiving and upon further inspection, the pedigree of Summer Bird appears to be a who’s who of Classic Champions and important sires.

In the first generation of Summer Bird’s pedigree is his sire Birdstone – the Classic Champion Belmont winner who upset Smarty Jones’ bid to be the second undefeated thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown.

In the second generation are the Classic Champions Grindstone and Summer Squall. Grindstone was a strong closer and in the 1996 Kentucky Derby he rallied for the win – trailing by 15 lengths at the half-mile mark – to edge Cavonnier by a nose in the final stride. Summer Squall finished second in the 1990 Kentucky Derby losing by three and one-half lengths to his rival Unbridled. However, in the Preakness Summer Squall turned the tables on Unbridled beating him by two and one-quarter lengths in a near-record time of 1:53 3/5. Summer Squall did not race in the Belmont because of bleeding issues and Unbridled finished third. Also in the second generation is the Reine-de-Course mare Dear Birdie – the dam of Birdstone and 2006 broodmare of the year.

In the third generation are the Classic Champions Unbridled and Alysheba; two strains of the important sire Storm Bird and the Reine-de-Course mare Weekend Surprise. In addition to being the sire of Summer Squall, Storm Bird was also the sire of the influential sire Storm Cat; the grandsire of the 1994 Preakness and Belmont winner Tabasco Cat and the damsire of the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Thunder Gulch. Dubbed “America’s Horse” by racing fans, Alysheba won the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness enroute to an 11-8-2 career record in 26 starts and $6,679,242 in earnings. The outstanding broodmare Weekend Surprise was the dam of Summer Squall and 1992 Belmont winner and sire of sires A.P. Indy.

In the fourth generation is one of the most outstanding sons of Mr. Prospector and important sire Fappiano; the important sire Drone – damsire of the 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone and 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic; two strains of the sire of sires and Classic Champion Northern Dancer – winner of the 1964 Kentucky Derby and Preakness; the Classic Champion Secretariat – winner of the 1973 American Triple Crown and the Classic Champion Nijinsky – undefeated winner of the 1970 English Triple Crown. In addition to being a Classic Champion, Nijinsky was an outstanding stallion who sired the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand; Epsom Derby winners Golden Fleece (1982), Shahrastani (1986) and Lammtarra (1995); Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Lammtarra (1995) and Prix du Jockey Club winner Caerleon (1983). Nijinksy was also the grandsire of the Epsom Derby winners Kahyasi (1988) and Generous (1991); Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Marienbard (2002) and Belmont winner Bet Twice (1987).

Also in the fourth generation is the legendary Alydar and if Affirmed had not been his rival, Alydar would have been the 1978 Triple Crown winner. Alydar was also an important stallion who sired the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Alysheba (1987); Kentucky Derby winner Strike The Gold (1991) and the Belmont winner Easy Goer (1989).

After the Arkansas Derby, Summer Bird only had $100,000 in Graded Stakes earnings and it looked like he would not make into the field for the Kentucky Derby. But when the news broke that Giant Oak would bypass the Kentucky Derby, the Jayaraman’s were excited to hear that Summer Bird would draw-in to the Derby field.

“I hope he does well,” said Jayaraman. “That’s all we can hope for.”

The Jayaraman’s know that a good pedigree does not guarantee success on the racetrack. But if Summer Bird lives up to his breeding, the Jayaraman’s are hopeful that he will bring them closer to living their dream.

Summer Bird did not race as a two-year old and he will have only raced three times as a three-year-old when he enters the Derby starting gate. The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby with only three starts was the filly Regret (1915). Apollo won the Derby in 1882 without having raced as a two-year-old.

On May 2nd, Summer Bird will make his bid to have his name entered into the Derby history book. However, when it comes to making history, Summer Bird might have the slight advantage – his ancestors were history makers.

Posted by: Calvin Carter on April 25, 2009 at 10:53 PM

Summer Bird finished a respectable 6th in the Kentucky Derby and that performance made him my favorite Belmont long shot bet.


  1. Hi Calvin
    ...nice to see Summer Bird win the Eclispe 3 yo male. WOW! Enjoyed your comments regarding the pedigree.

  2. SR Vegas,

    Thanks for the compliment. I'm happy for Summer Bird and his connections. It's good to hear that Summer Bird will return to race as a 4-year-old.